Unless his sore back improves considerably before game time, Redskin halfback Benny Malone may not be able to play Sunday afternoon against the Green Bay Packers in RFK Stadium.

Malone, struck by a helmet during a tackle in last week's game, did not work out yesterday, although he had practiced Thursday.

"Its a lot better than it was," Malone said."Sure, I'll play. I'm not going to miss a game."

The coaches, however, were not as optimistic. Although they were not ruling him out, they conceded that he could not have played yesterday.

"I'm not sure what Benny's situation will be," Coach Jack Pardee said, and indicated that Malone could be used on a spot basis if his back does not improve.

If Malone can't play, Ike Forte, Bobby Hammond and Clarence Harmon will take his place.

"The type player Benny is, it would be hard for him to run in that style and not get his back hurt," Pardee said. "You don't want him changing his style. If he isn't ready to go all out, it might be better to hold him out or maybe spot him.

"We'll use all three players for him. Ike has been doing third-down passing work anyway and we don't want to change that. But we can use all three on first- and second-down situations."

Malone, who has had a pulled hamstring all season, had not had the kind of year either he or the Redskins expected.

Through 13 games he has gained 426 yards, second on the club to John Riggins' 819. But his average gain for 161 attempts is only 2.6 yards, behind Riggins' 4.1, Harmon's 4.8, Forte's 4.3, and the injured Buddy Hardeman's 4.0.

Harmon, who also backs up Riggins, has become a clutch player both with his runs and his catches of Joe Theismann's passes. He is a stronger runner than Forte, who has recovered from a back injury, or Hammond, the recent acquisition from the Giants.

"Ike is running better than he has in the last two weeks, now that his back is feeling better," said the running back coach, Fred O'Connor. "And we're pleased with the way Bobby has come along. He's picking up the system pretty quickly."

Pardee this season has been consistent in that if he decides an athlete is not at least near 100 percent healthy, that player is benched for one who is.

"Unless they can go all out, I'd rather go with someone who can," Pardee explained. "We are at a stage in the season where we cant't afford to have anything less than 100 percent out there."

The Redskins yesterday concluded their major preparations for the Green Bay game, although the defense has had little film with which to study new Packer quarterback Lynn Dickey.

Dickey has played only half a game this season, last week against Philadelphia, making it hard to pick up any tendencies or habits. But the Redskins are banking that Coach Bart Starr, who sends in the plays, will not alter his offense much.

"They still have the same personnel," cornerback Joe Lavender said. "Can't see them doing much different than they have been. I wouldn't think they'd alter their whole offense for him (Dickey).

"We know he is a good quarterback. He's played before and he looked good against Philly. And (David) Whitehurst is good, too. We have to be ready for both of them."

Dickey, according to linebacker Brad Dusek, "probably won't scramble as much as Whitehurst, but it's hard to tell. Again, Dickey hasn't played that much to get a feel for what he is going to do.

"It used to be that some quarterbacks never threw to their backs, so that was something you could study. But no more. We've seen enough of him, I think, to get a reading on what they might try."

According to Pardee, "we just have to make sure we concentrate on (wide receiver) James Lofton and (tight end) Paul Coffman and not let them hurt us.

"Honestly, if you didn't pay close attention to the Philly film, you wouldn't know if No. 10 (Dickey) or No. 17 (Whitehurst) was on the field.

You'd never know the difference."

Dickey, who has missed almost two seasons with a leg injury, was nominated by Starr this week to replace Whitehurst, who has been struggling the last few games.

Although the Reskins are nine-point favorites, center Ted Fritsch, who grew up in Green Bay, where his late father played for the Packers, is not taking any chances.

Fritsch yesterday received the first order of "The Wild Bunch" towels, which will be on sale at the Stadium Sunday before the game. Fritsch hopes the small towels will catch on in Washington like the Terrible Towels did in Pittsburgh.

"It will give the fans something to wave," Fritsch said of the burgundy-and-gold towels bearing the nickname of the Redskins' special teams.